For evangelicals, sin is redeemable — but can that allow sex offenders to dodge their actions?


November 29, 2017

By Tara Isabella Burton

Many of Roy Moore’s evangelical supporters see alleged “sins of the past” as no longer relevant.

Onetime Alabama Senate frontrunner (and longtime Christian theocrat) Roy Moore has managed to hold onto his evangelical base, despite being embroiled in allegations of sexual misconduct with at least eight teenage girls when he was in his 30s. Several major evangelical figures, including Jerry Falwell Jr., and Franklin Graham, both of whom serve on Donald Trump’s unofficial evangelical advisory council, have spoken in support of Moore, and, according to the latest Fox News poll, 65 percent of white evangelicals in Alabama still plan to vote for him.


Evangelical support for Moore is based on a variety of factors. There are those who think that the allegations against Moore are the result of a political smear campaign, or — worse — that diabolical “forces of evil” are attempting to push God out of government, in this case by muddling a staunch Christian politician’s chances of winning a Senate seat. There are those who think that “courting” a teenage girl just isn’t that big a deal. There are those who believe the good Moore can do in office — like working to ban abortion — outweigh the bad in his personal life.

But, perhaps most importantly, an alarmingly common evangelical approach to sexual misconduct — and misconduct more generally — is deeply rooted in theological concepts of sin, redemption, and forgiveness that make it easy to dissociate a wrongdoing individual from his past misdeeds on the grounds that he has already been “forgiven.”

When it comes to the allegations against Moore, this narrative has been pervasive among evangelical supporters. In line with the aforementioned Fox News poll, Dottie Finch, a Moore supporter interviewed by CNN shortly after the allegations came out, took this view: “And if it has happened, I believe the good Lord has forgiven him and he has the right to continue to prove himself.” An Alabama retiree and Moore supporter quoted by the Huffington Post took a similar tack: “And if he had done it, it doesn’t matter in God’s eyes because he’d have been forgiven.” Kenneth Frost, a Baptist deacon, agreed, telling the Los Angeles Times, “I have to forgive him, just like God forgave me.”

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